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WH Coronavirus Coordinator Encouraged By Decline In New Cases In Most Of U.S. : NPR

Dr. Deborah Birx, White House coronavirus response coordinator, listens during a meeting at the White House earlier this month.

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Dr. Deborah Birx, White House coronavirus response coordinator, listens during a meeting at the White House earlier this month.

Alex Brandon/AP

White House coronavirus task force coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx said on Tuesday that she is encouraged by the latest data showing declines in new cases of the virus, hospitalizations and deaths across all but a few areas of the United States.

Birx told a group of reporters at the White House that clinical, laboratory data and surveillance data from across the country shows that new hospitalizations have dropped by 50% in the last 30 days, and deaths continue to decrease week over week. “All states have dropped under 20% test positive, and New York has gone from over 45% test positive just 30 days ago, to under 10% test positive,” Birx said. “These types of declines are being seen across the board except in a few areas.”

Three exceptions, where indicators have plateaued rather than declined: the Washington D.C., metro area, Chicago, and Los Angeles. “We’re dissecting each one of these plateaus and providing daily updates to the task force on what’s community spread and what’s outbreak in terms of new cases. We study these three metros that are closed and have been closed to understand where precisely the new cases are coming from and how to prevent new infections,” Birx said.

Otherwise, Birx said major metropolitan areas are starting to improve significantly. Testing has expanded, including among populations most vulnerable to the virus, to find asymptomatic cases early and expand contact tracing and isolating new cases, she said. Outbreaks at nursing homes, meat packing plants and prisons are being stopped “on a regular and ongoing basis” she said.

“A lot of states have been doing exactly what we asked them to: find, test, contract trace, and contain. They are finding the first case, finding the other 50 cases — or finding the other 100 cases that are often asymptomatic by testing everyone in the plant, or nursing home, or prison — and stopping community spread. And that’s been very reassuring to me,” Birx said. She added that the task force is focused on finding where the virus starts in a community before it spreads.

Birx said she has been talking to the military about how they’ve created teams and sub-teams, and wants to work with manufacturers and other groups to adopt such measures in the workplace. “When you can align work shifts and physically who you regularly interact with in the factory, teams of people always working together, it’s an easier way to test these specific groups and stop outbreaks,” she said.

The U.S. has had more than 1.5 million confirmed cases so far and more than 90,000 deaths according to Johns Hopkins — by far the highest counts in the world.

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Coindesk News

The American Empire Is in Decline. Time for a New Economic System- CoinDesk

Lex Sokolin, a CoinDesk columnist, is Global Fintech co-head at ConsenSys, a Brooklyn, N.Y.-based blockchain software company. The following is adapted from his Fintech Blueprint newsletter.

The hard thing about abundance is making a choice. We live in a time of the broadest set of economic, social and political thinking, available to all at any time. But when the world’s most important macroeconomic investor, Ray Dalio, publishes a deeply researched description of the money markets and a forward view of the impact on American Empire, all we have to do is listen and learn. It is all available here, for free.

What makes empires according to Ray? And what breaks them?

Dalio’s Bridgewater team looked across time to the East and the West. In Europe, they tracked the British, Dutch and other colonial powers. In Asia, they analyzed the coming and going of Chinese dynasties. While the structure and organizing principles of the political super-organisms (i.e., the beehive) has changed drastically over millennia, human nature and DNA have not.

The data suggests empires last about 200 years. It all starts with education, which leads to innovation and productive competitiveness. Growing military power, funded by growing wealth, protects trade and financial flows that attach to a dominant power. After a rise and time lag of almost 100 years, the incumbent is crowned with the gift of a reserve currency – that financial superpower that allows it to print money. Yet, when that superpower is over-exercised, and investments in education and innovation erode away, debt cycles accumulate and collapse the whole endeavor. The biome is effectively destroyed.

Here is the tracking of empires in Dalio’s study using a smoothed weighted average of the discussed attributes to create an index of power. Pay close attention to America in blue, Britain in black and China in red.

dalio-image
Taken from “The Changing World Order” by Ray Dalio

This is a fantastic amount of work, condensed into a clear visualization. Now, as the U.S. has to contend with the rise of China, it competes with a nation that has improving fundamental attributes (education, innovation) but not yet the reserve currency. The reserve currency allows its bearer to generate economic activity from thin air at the expense of the rest of the world. This brings us back on point to money, which is why you are reading this article.

The empire super-organism emerges as complexity out of the interaction of millions of individual human agents and the other organisms they form such as families, teams, companies and states (for more on what complexity really looks like, see my thoughts on Wolfram’s theory of the universe). I think it is hard to create a deterministic model that describes complex systems without overshooting the truth with convenient narrative. But we do what we must, and it is better to have a rough compass to the truth than none at all.

When looking at the money part of empires, Ray sees two attributes of the “machine.” The first is the regular expansion/contraction business cycle, lasting five to 10 years on average, driven by the extension of credit and its default. Like the human body drawing breath in and out, money flows into our pockets and out like a wave.

Credit is its own animal, and left unchecked unhinges from collateral to become mere imagination.

The second insight is to recognize a 50- to 100-year cycle of sovereign money. This is a cycle that switches between (1) hard money like gold, which has intrinsic redeemable value and is trustless (i.e., can be used for transactions between enemies), (2) paper money built on credit tied to hard money and (3) fiat money issued at will by sovereigns. Another way to describe the same concept is to say that money starts out physically scarce, then becomes digitally or contractually scarce and then loses its scarcity entirely.

The entropy of the system, or alternately human nature, moves us from scarce money to credit because we want growth. I believe this is tied to how our brains are wired for loss aversion and dopamine rewards. We will cheat ourselves from the future for just a hit of pleasure today. Credit is its own animal, and left unchecked unhinges from collateral to become mere imagination. Once that imagination runs wild and is spent for the enrichment of the few (e.g., corporate equity buybacks) rather than the safety of the money (e.g., universal health care), you get some form of revolution or currency devaluation, which then leads to seeking scarcity again. Here’s how Dalio illustrates it:

dalio-2
Taken from “The Changing World Order” by Ray Dalio

If you’re not going berserk looking at the above chart, which shows a peak of the monetary base as a percentage of GDP in the 1930s and then in 2010-2020, then you are not paying attention. The U.S. is massively unmoored from scarcity by design, which puts us on the brink of a systemic paradigm shift. Last month, the government printed 20% of GDP in a single stroke, and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. The gold and bitcoin bugs feel vindicated in their core philosophical premise, which is that the central banks will always “cheat” and generate more money whenever politically convenient. That has been reflected in the price of gold, if you control for the effects of foreign actors rushing to the dollar as a reserve currency.

If we go back to Dalio’s description of the money super-cycle machine, our economy is in 1930s territory, as is the divided state of our polity and the rising autocratic pressure across the world given wealth and income inequality. But let’s table the latter and focus on the former. President Franklin Roosevelt and the Keynesians drove the largest expansion of the American social welfare system and government employment in response to the Great Depression. The government gave itself new fiscal powers and silenced the judiciary (at the time, a good thing) to spend, spend, spend to avoid unbearable crises.

Two growing ideas are used to justify the current approach of the central banks. One is called Modern Monetary Theory (“MMT”), which goes one step further than the Keynesians, who thought taxation and bond issuance should be the mechanism by which money is tied to government obligations before it is spent by the government. MMT supporters think money, especially when it is the reserve currency and is thereby protected from foreign exchange  pressure, is phantom accounting and simply should be issued by the government to provide social services like universal basic income and health care. The policy target is full employment.

See also: Software Ate the World, Here’s How It Eats Finance

While I am likely distorting the summary with personal bias, to me it seems the core goal here is for the government to use money for maintaining the standard of living inside a late-stage reserve-incumbent empire. Dalio’s take is here, wherein he titles MMT as “Monetary Policy 3” or MP3.

The second idea is called Market Monetarism, advocated by economist Scott Sumner, my friend David Siegel and Eliezer Yudkowsky. If you have an hour to spare and want an eerily prescient imagined conversation between Yudkowsky and a central banker, read this piece from 2017 that predicts the future we live in. The core premise is that central banks should not target interest rates or unemployment, but instead choose a long-term nominal GDP growth target like 5%. If you have real GDP growth of 2%, you need inflation of 3%. If you have real GDP growth of -10%, you need inflation of 15%. Further, the effects of this should persist year over year such that mistakes are corrected to the multi-year average (e.g., if you want to grow 50% over 10 years, you would need to go up 6% if you only did 4% last year, ignoring the actual compounding arithmetic).

Our economy is in 1930s territory, as is the divided state of our polity, and the rising autocratic pressure across the world given wealth and income inequality.

The outcome is that economic actors in this NGDP targeted system can rely on what economic growth looks like, at least on paper. To effect this in practice, the money machine has to print variable rates of inflation or disinflation. Printing 20% of GDP or having negative interest rates is just fine, as long as it leads to that 5% growth expectation coming true. Everything else is just a math plug, since fiat money is just a construct in a database.

The year 2020 will see the above logic tested precisely. Whether it works or not in the long term will be experimentally observed. But I have strong doubts, and think Ray Dalio’s piece provides the necessary bridges between Market Monetarism and Modern Monetary Theory to the long history of humankind.

We can play the confidence game in the late stages of American empire, sure. We can unmoor money from the economy and stimulate employment in order to dampen social unrest, preventing societal collapse and another Constitutional crisis. But there’s a cycle, and it is a cycle of trust.

Physical scarcity and utility is one aspect. You can trust the shiny gold you hold now, and the shiny gold in the shelf of the museum. There are thousands of years of precedent saying it is safe to own.

Digital scarcity and utility is another aspect. Blockchain-based systems have recreated such attributes in Bitcoin, Ethereum and others. While many people are wary of these systems today, it is largely due to the tragedy of scammers and hackers undermining the public perception of sound long-term technology for short term gains. Digital assets traveling on decentralized rails are one of the few alternatives to sovereign currencies and physical bullion. They will benefit not just from the collapse of the business cycle, but the broader ending of the macro super-cycle. 

Through this lens, China’s quick movement to the blockchain-based yuan is a story of battle for global hegemony. It needs to park its reserve currency into the crypto ecosystem. That will compete with over $10 billion of U.S. dollar-denominated stablecoins already in use. What we can also deduce by corollary is that once money truly flows into blockchain-anchored economies, blockchain-native software and businesses will bloom by the thousands. The latter is a reason to get up in the morning.

Now is not an incremental time. Now is not a time for mild cost savings or small improvements in user experience. Now is a time for building the future of the world.

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The leader in blockchain news, CoinDesk is a media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. CoinDesk is an independent operating subsidiary of Digital Currency Group, which invests in cryptocurrencies and blockchain startups.



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Trump Notes Significant Decline in Number of COVID-19 Cases Across US

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WASHINGTON (Sputnik) – US President Donald Trump noted a significant decrease in the number of COVID-19 cases across the country in recent days.

“The number of Coronavirus cases is strongly trending downward throughout the United States, with few exceptions. Very good news, indeed!” Trump said on Twitter.

In late April, the daily increase in the number of COVID-19 cases in the United States stood at around 36,000, while starting from May the daily number of new cases of the infection fluctuates between 18,000 and 27,000.

As of 17 May, nearly 1,470,000 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in the United States, the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention data shows. The number of fatalities stands at 89,000 and around 270,000 patients have recovered.

The United States leads the world in the number of reported COVID-19 deaths and confirmed cases. There are more than 4.5 million COVID-19 cases worldwide and over 307,000 deaths, according to the World Health Organization data.



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News Popular Resistance

A Delusional Nation In Decline

A Delusional Nation In Decline

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The United States Is Coming Apart At The Seams, And No One Seems To Notice.

In recent weeks, the fabricated “Reopen America” movement, funded and focused by Right Wing billionaires and conservative media, has led to protests around the country, including in Michigan, where white supremacist militias have used it to their advantage for the purposes of recruitment and action. These militias have stormed the Michigan state legislature, interrupted business, and, as of this week, shut down the government of Michigan for fear of possible violence.

Any student of history understands the process by which nations slide into authoritarian abyss. It comes, most often, after years of political and social decay, wherein the people lose faith in their corrupted governments and systems, are won over by a budding authoritarian, and watch lawlessness, both in the form of corruption and in out and out fascism, comes into full and unavoidable view. Unfortunately, we’re in one of those moments now, but Americans just aren’t ready to see it.

Michigan is just the first state to experience this problem in this moment. Of course, in Oregon we saw an outlaw group led by the Bundy Clan occupy federal ground and escape consequences, but this new incident is an escalation of a trend that we should become unfortunately accustomed to. As governments and countries fall apart, the appearance of paramilitary forces is to be expected. It is a seizure of authority from citizens with plans and designs to forego democratic institutions in favor of authoritarian measures.

The danger lies not only in the physical threatening, but in the societal repercussions. It feels now almost certain that the stalemate in Michigan, between a governor protecting her constituents from a deadly pandemic and a group of armed men looking to start a race war and install a fascist dictatorship, could lead to violence. That’s what these demonstrations are about. Putting people in pressurized situations and waiting for the tinderbox to ignite. Each march and protest and siege is about upping the ante while awaiting the terrible next act.

But even if there is no violence, the political act of intimidating legislatures, of interrupting the people’s business with weapons and maneuvers intended to terrorize lawmakers, is an affront to the concept of an open and democratic society. Even while no blood has been shed, and hopefully none will be, armed men stalking the statehouse and occupying the halls of a democratically-elected legislature is a symbol of violence as a means of governing.

These moments inspire other actors to do the same, and we will probably see more incidents of mobs of Americans and terrorist organizations occupying public spaces. It is infectious and as it grows it only hastens the decline of a nation and its democratic institutions. This is the case and has always been the case. Meanwhile, the story is largely just a blip on a radar of continued coverage of Donald Trump’s lies, scandals, and conspiracy mongering. And those who should know better show concern, but are slow to admit the growing existential threat lingering over the nation.

We are watching America in decline, an empire coming apart at the seams. We can bury our heads in the sand and pretend it isn’t happening, but it doesn’t make it any less true. As long as criminals go unpunished, whether they be in the White House or engaging in political terrorism in the halls of statehouses around the country, it quickens our slide. This will not simply go away and it will not heal itself.

Jared Yates Sexton is the author of American Rule: How A Nation Conquered The World But Failed Its People, available for pre-order from Dutton/Penguin-Random House. His work has appeared in The New York Times, The New Republic, The Daily Beast, Politico, and elsewhere. Currently he serves as an associate professor of writing at Georgia Southern University and is the co-host of The Muckrake Podcast.

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Coindesk News

Hut 8 Mining Revenue Continues Decline in Q1

Hut 8 Mining, one of Canada’s largest mining operations, reported less-than-stellar first-quarter 2020 earnings Monday, the same day as the bitcoin halving.

Earnings lowlights included falling revenue, decreased adjusted EBITDA margin and increased collateral requirements on debt.

For the third consecutive quarter, revenues declined; this time by 14% sequentially to C$12.7 million (US$9.1 million). This was caused by a 32% decrease in the number of bitcoin mined during the quarter as the network hashrate continued to rise. This was partially offset by a 27% increase in the average price per bitcoin mined.

Site operating costs came in slightly elevated compared to the previous quarter (C$11.1 million in 4Q19 vs. C$12.6 million in 1Q20), possibly caused by a seasonal increase in electricity prices during cold weather.

Read more: The Rise of ASICs: A Step-by-Step History of Bitcoin Mining

With revenue down and site operating costs up, reported adjusted EBITDA slid in the red. Adjusted EBITDA margin came in at negative 4%, down from the positive 19% margin reported in 4Q19.

Management noted that bitcoin’s price plunge on March 12 caused adjusted EBTIDA to come in at negative C$822,000 for the month of March, more than offsetting the C$264,000 worth of gains recognized in the first two months of the quarter.

Liquid assets almost entirely locked behind collateralized debt

The amount of bitcoin retained on the balance sheet remained relatively flat sequentially as the vast majority (94%) of the bitcoin mined during the quarter were sold off to pay operating expenses. As of the end of March, Hut 8 held just shy of 3,000 bitcoin worth approximately C$35 million (US$25 million) using current market prices.

During the quarter, an unsecured loan from Bitfury was refinanced with a C$7 million extension loan from Genesis Capital. According to company filings, the terms of the extension loan were similar to that of its existing C$21 million loan with Genesis. However, the new extension loan came with a shorter payment period and a higher collateral requirement.

hut-8-loans

As a result of the refinancing, the amount of bitcoin locked in collateralized loans increased from 58% of Hut 8’s total bitcoin holdings (1,700 bitcoin) in 4Q19 to 94% (2,823 bitcoin) in 1Q20.

Plan to upgrade equipment still in the works

With Hut 8’s existing mining equipment quickly aging, management continues to consider upgrading to more efficient ASICs from Chinese manufacturers. Few new details were disclosed on the earnings call. However, the company did mention that it would likely finance any purchases primarily from a combination of self-financing debt and equity.

Looking ahead

The halving continues to be a major headwind for the miners like Hut 8 as the block rewards gets reduced. On the earnings call, Interim CEO Jimmy Vaiopoulos said the halving could cause the company to shut off part of its operations. However, Hut 8 remains hopeful that bitcoin prices will rise in the near future, boosting the company’s profitability and the value of its assets.

See also: Bitcoin Halving Arrives: Mining Rewards Drop for Third Time in History

The company’s plan to upgrade its equipment will surely increase operating efficiency. However, the financing needed to secure any significant purchases is still pending. Given the material risks and uncertainties of the business, Hut 8’s company filings state there is “significant doubt about the Company’s ability to continue as a going concern.” Since the earnings release, Hut 8’s stock price has pulled back 21%.

For additional insights, check out CoinDesk Research’s deep dive into Hut 8.

Disclosure Read More

The leader in blockchain news, CoinDesk is a media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. CoinDesk is an independent operating subsidiary of Digital Currency Group, which invests in cryptocurrencies and blockchain startups.

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